Chris Rock has one of the best jokes of all time. It goes something like this “When you first meet someone they ALWAYS bring their representative- meaning their best self- to meet you.”
There is no quicker way to truly find out who someone is until they spend a couple of days in your home. Case in point, I rehired the contractor who fixed the huge hole in our ceiling to install my backsplash. Included in his verbal quote (yes, please do always get things in writing, also get more than one bid) was backsplash, and installing two outdoor sconces and two dimmers for $1,200. The first time he came out, he was completely professional and materials were included in his quote.
This time around they magically were not. I did not expect him to buy my backsplash, but I expected him to purchase everything else and just tack it on to my quote. Instead, I ended up spending $59.67 on thinset, spacers, and grout (after I demanded he meet me at the store because I had no clue what the hell to purchase). First day of the job he arrived and was shocked that the old backsplash was up. He tried to strong arm me into paying him an extra $150 to demo it and throw it in my trash- what a joke. I informed him it made no sense for a counter top company to demo my backsplash (Speak up, don’t get bullied. This is your house and your money!). In the end we decided I would pay $75 for the demo.
At the end of day one he asked for $700 (I was happy to oblige, as I believe in the model half up, front half when the job is done. Always pay via check or card- yours truly paid in cash). The next day he didn’t show up, and throughout the week he arrived late several times (pushing the job out from one to two weeks). The final day he stated he was finished. I noticed several UN-finished spots, and he requested final payment (I had paid him two other times. What happened to get paid at the beginning and end of a job?). Not wanting to argue with him (I was home alone, and value my safety), I wrote him a check. My spouse called later and sent him an email that night. 48 hours later, still no response. We decided to cancel the check. Obviously at this point he didn’t plan to come back. The guy does amazing work, but it leaves me with a huge question- would I hire him again or would I refer him to others? Real-life moment: I don’t know. Some people can tolerate more or less than I can. Here are some rules I learned, not just from this renovation, but also from others:
- Go with your gut: You have to trust the contractor 100 percent, not 95 percent
- Make sure the contractor is licensed to work in your area, bonded, and insured
- Have a detailed contract in place before any work begins
- Give the contractor guidelines for working in or around your home. We don’t have an outside sink. As a homeowner, yeah, maybe we should get one. I, however, advise contractors to use a water hose (we have three of them) to fill up buckets. Someone once asked me if it was okay to fill up buckets and clean tools in my bathtub. It is not!
- Know what your responsibilities are. You may have to move everything out of a room so it can be painted, or remove a fence so a concrete truck can be driven into your backyard.
- Think locally- Area contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually reliable and safe bets for projects. If they didn’t do good work in your community, they wouldn’t still be around.
- You might also ask the contractor for a list of his or her building-material suppliers. Call them to see if the contractor has an account or pays for items upon delivery. Most suppliers are willing to extend credit to financially reliable contractors Expect a contractor to be too busy to start right away. “The best folks are the busy ones.”
- Ask for references. References are king, so call them. Ask some penetrating questions such as these:
- Would you hire this contractor again?
- Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
- How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
- Was the contractor easy to talk to?
- How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
- Was the job completed on time and at the bid price? If not, why not?
9. I repeat, follow your gut